I have drunk since I was fifteen and few things have given me more pleasure. When you work hard all day with your head and you know you must work again the next day what else can change your ideas and make them run on a different plane like whiskey? When you are cold and wet what else can warm you? Before an attack who can say anything that gives you the momentary well being that rum does?

»Ernest Hemingway in a letter to the Russian critic Ivan Kashkin.


The happy day school of language

The problem is that, when [Leiris] approaches language, he is unable completely to abandon his belief in its omnipotence; he expects it to provide the revelation that learning to read may once have provided.

»J.B. Pontalis (David Macey, tr.), “Michel Leiris, or Psychoanalysis Without End.” Yale French Studies, no. 81, On Leiris (1992).

Eco on lists

Culture isn’t knowing when Napoleon died. Culture means knowing how I can find out in two minutes. Of course, nowadays I can find this kind of information on the Internet in no time. But, as I said, you never know with the Internet.

»Umberto Eco on lists.


Years later Caresse recollected her schooling as having been neither notably happy or unhappy. She admitted to having learned nothing in the academic sense, yet characteristically claimed, without merit, to have ranked second in her class. She had no interest in history, in facts and chronologies, or in the past. Reality did not bind or attract her, and she lived her life in dreams.

»Geoffrey Wolff on Caresse Crosby, in Black Sun : the Brief Transit and Violent Eclipse of Harry Crosby. New York, New York Review Books, 2003.

Of the making of books etc. etc.

I’m alternately humbled and/or driven to despair when I discover entire literary ecologies I never knew existed before. According to Wikipedia, in 2001, 102 Romanian critics chose Mateiu Caragiale‘s Craii de Curtea-Veche as the “best Romanian novel of the twentieth century.” Apparently, Caragiale criticism is practically a cottage-industry in Romania. As far as I can tell today, however, none of his work has been translated into English. Note to NYRB Books: Get on this.